Labor News

Hundreds of SEIU contract workers go on strike at Reagan National and Dulles

Current News - Fri, 12/22/2017 - 09:00

Hundreds of SEIU contract workers go on strike at Reagan National and Dulles

https://wtop.com/local/2016/12/hundreds-of-workers-go-on-strike-at-reaga...
By Nick Iannelli | @NickWTOP
December 14, 2016 9:47 am

The protest at Reagan National airport was the first involving employees from Huntleigh. (WTOP/Nick Iannelli)
WASHINGTON — Hundreds of contracted airport service workers walked off the job Wednesday morning at Dulles International and Reagan National airports, speaking out against their employer and demanding to be paid a minimum of $15 an hour.

“They’re on strike today to demand higher standards,” said protest organizer Jaime Contreras, vice president of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ.

“This is something that is very hard for them to do, but they’ve had enough.”

The employees, including baggage handlers and wheelchair attendants, are with Huntleigh USA Corporation, a contractor that does business directly with airlines.

It has around 400 workers at the two airports.

Organizers of the demonstration said the employees often have to work two or three jobs to support their families and earn as little as $6.15 an hour plus tips.

“We’re here today to make sure these workers get what they deserve which is a higher wage and respect and dignity on the job,” Contreras said.

It was not the first time contracted airport service workers in the D.C. area walked off the job. Employees at Reagan National went on strike in late March as part of a nationwide protest involving people who do various jobs including cleaning airplanes, checking and hauling bags and assisting passengers who have disabilities.

Tuesday’s protest was the first involving employees from Huntleigh, and it marked the first time that contracted airport workers from Dulles International agreed to strike.

“We work very hard to ensure that travelers have a safe and clean airport, but we are ready to go on strike to ensure we can provide for our families,” said Aynalem Lale, a wheelchair dispatcher at Dulles.

“If I made $15 an hour, I wouldn’t have to work two jobs and would not have to sleep at the airport between jobs.”

Travelers should not notice any difference in operations.

“There has been no adverse impact on airport passengers or flights at Reagan National and Dulles International Airports. We expect normal airport operations during the peaceful protest,” said Rob Yingling, a spokesman for the airports.

Protesters also planned to attend a Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board of directors meeting to ask for a new rule, requiring airline contractors such as Huntleigh to pay workers $15 an hour.

Tags: SEIU contract workersairport workers National Dullesairport workers strike
Categories: Labor News

Canadian USW Locomotive engineer Tom Harding was patient, safety-conscious, Lac-Mégantic trial hears-USW Contributes $70,000 To Defense Fund "No charges were brought against MMA owner Ed Burkhardt or against the federal Conservative government

Current News - Fri, 12/22/2017 - 08:01

Canadian USW Locomotive engineer Tom Harding was patient, safety-conscious, Lac-Mégantic trial hears-USW Contributes $70,000 To Defense Fund
"No charges were brought against MMA owner Ed Burkhardt or against the federal Conservative government that allowed the use of single-worker train crews without an inquiry into the implications of its decision."

http://www.cbc.ca/beta/news/canada/montreal/mma-lac-megantic-trial-jonat...

'My conscience should dictate my moves,' Jonathan Couture recalls Harding telling him, so 'I could sleep well'

Alison Brunette · CBC News
November 28, 2017

A former Montreal, Maine and Atlantic (MMA) train conductor who worked at MMA in the year leading up to the 2013 Lac-Mégantic rail disaster told a Sherbrooke court Tuesday that Thomas Harding, the locomotive engineer who operated the ill-fated train on the night of the tragedy, went out of his way to help his colleagues.

Harding, 56, is one of three former MMA employees, along with operations manager Jean Demaître, 53, and railway traffic controller Richard Labrie, 59, who are each charged with 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death in connection with the deadly derailment and explosions.

Lead locomotive not up to 'basic standard' to prevent runaway train, trial hears
Speaking quietly and calmly, Jonathan Couture stood in the witness box at the Sherbrooke courthouse Tuesday and told Superior Court Justice Gaétan Dumas and jurors Harding "knew his territory from top to bottom and always respected speed limits."

Under cross-examination by Harding's lawyer, Charles Shearson, Couture testified that as a more experienced colleague, Harding regularly gave him helpful pointers.

Jonathan Couture, who worked as a train conductor at Montreal, Maine and Atlantic in the year before the 2013 Lac-Mégantic tragedy, described a working environment with lax safety standards but said Thomas Harding had been safety conscious and gave him sound advice. (Marie-Hélène Rousseau/Radio-Canada)

"If he saw I was going to do something dangerous or incorrect, he enjoyed talking to me about it or making suggestions," Couture said, recalling one incident in which Harding had given him sound advice.

"I was here in Sherbrooke in the cautionary limits zone, and we were about to leave towards Megantic, and I wasn't sure if I had applied the handbrakes on the cars left in the yard…. I decided to speak to Tom about it before we were too far," said Couture.

"His reaction was to stop the train and ask me to go back," he recalled, adding that Harding told him "my conscience should dictate my moves, to reassure me my job was done and that I could sleep well that night."

'Joe-le-prudent'

Couture told the court his nickname at MMA had been "Joe-le-prudent" (Joe Careful).

"I was a bit of a handbrake maniac," Couture said, when asked how the moniker originated.

Couture testified several of his colleagues had tried to dissuade him from using so many handbrakes when securing a train.

"Did Tom Harding ever discourage you from that practice?" asked Shearson.

"Never."

Lax safety standards

Earlier in his testimony, Couture described a working environment with lax safety standards.

He told Dumas and jurors his bosses never followed up with employees after mistakes were made in the field.

Couture testified he was unaware MMA had a safety management system.

Couture told the court he'd worked and been trained at Canadian Pacific Railway before working at MMA, and said his MMA supervisors dealt with accidents in a reactionary manner, rather than trying to prevent incidents before they happened.

"Is it correct to say that at MMA, it was much looser than at CP, which was much stricter?" asked Shearson.

"Yes, the training and supervision was a lot more [complete] at CP than it was at MMA," answered Couture.

"What were the measures that stemmed from … warnings or reprimands?" asked Shearson.

"Depending on the incident or accident, it could begin [with] a warning to a suspension without pay," explained Couture.

"To your knowledge, was it your obligation to follow training on the rule that had not been followed?" asked Shearson.

"To my knowledge, no."

The fuel train had been left idling at Nantes, Que., the night before it rolled down the track, derailing and exploding in downtown Lac-Mégantic on July 6, 2013. The resulting fires killed 47 people. (Mathieu Bélanger/Reuters)

Couture testified Ken Strout and Paul Budge were the MMA supervisors who were in charge of issuing warnings, but he said he never met them personally.

"You never saw them in Farnham or anywhere else on the MMA network in Canada?" Shearson asked.

"I don't know them, never saw them," said Couture.

"Once the person was warned or sanctioned, was there a verification on the field to make sure the person had understood their mistake?" pressed Shearson.

"To my knowledge, no," said Couture.

Little maintenance of locomotives

Couture told the court it was very common for MMA locomotives to produce black smoke and spew oil.

"Is that something you noticed while you were rolling along in the yard?" asked Shearson.

"Yes, when we were in the yard or talking with the guys in the shop," said Couture.

"When we're speaking of general maintenance of locomotives, what did you notice during your work as a conductor before July 2013 concerning the general state of the locomotives?" asked Shearson.

"There was not much maintenance," said Couture.

"And when you observed the locomotive produced a large cloud of black smoke, did you keep operating the locomotive?" pressed Shearson.

"As though nothing was wrong," replied Couture.

Couture, the 28th witness in the trial, finished his testimony Tuesday.

Trial synopsis: A train's faulty engine, safety standards ignored and other revelations
The trial continues.

Workers fight frame-up for

Lac-Mégantic rail disaster

http://www.themilitant.com/2015/7905/790553.html
Vol. 79/No. 5 February 16, 2015

BY JOHN STEELE
MONTREAL — Railroad bosses, the cops and Canada’s courts are pushing to frame up and punish Tom Harding, an engineer for the now-bankrupt Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, as the person responsible for 47 deaths in the fiery train explosion July 6, 2013, in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec. Under special dispensation from the federal government, the rail bosses were running the train, with 72 cars containing more than 2 million gallons of highly volatile crude oil, with only an engineer as crew.
Harding, along with Richard Labrie, who was rail controller at the time of the disaster, both workers and members of the United Steelworkers union, and company manager Jean Demaître, were arrested last May and each charged with 47 counts of “criminal negligence causing death.” If convicted, they face possible life sentences.

Harding appeared before Judge Conrad Chapdelaine Jan. 15, who ordered a March 12 hearing to set the schedule for court proceedings. The preliminary hearing, which reviews the evidence and sets the date for the trial, is expected in the fall.

The company faces only the possibility of fines for safety violations.

From the beginning the bosses have tried to pin the blame on Harding. “The fact is this is a failure of one individual,” Ed Burkhardt, former chairman of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, told the Globe and Mail Aug. 19 after a Transportation and Safety Board report had the temerity to say the company had “a weak safety culture.”

The night of the disaster, Harding parked the train outside Lac-Mégantic, as he had done many times before. He left the engine running to keep the air brakes on and setting the handbrakes on seven cars, in accordance with company rules. Later that night, while Harding was asleep, a fire broke out and firefighters were called to put it out. They shut down the engine, inadvertently turning off the air brakes.

At 1 a.m., the train, with no one on board, started to roll, faster and faster, until it derailed, crashed into the town and exploded.

Randy MacDonald, an engineer with Amtrak in the Albany, New York, area, used to work with Harding. “I spent 20 years every other night at the crossing where the train was parked,” he told the Militant in a phone interview. “It could have been me. That crossing was our crew change point.”

“The company was trying to save money,” said MacDonald, who in 2013 set up the Tom Harding Defense Fund. “They changed their procedures. They had all the engineers shut down all the engines except the lead engine to save money on fuel. They parked on a hill.

“Management left the train unattended and when a fire broke out and the lead engine was shut down, they did not even send a qualified mechanical person to the scene to inspect the train, but a track department employee who has no knowledge of air brakes or train operations,” MacDonald said. “He reported that everything was OK — that the fire was out — so no further action was taken.”

MacDonald added that according to Canadian federal regulations, no handbrakes are required if the lead engine is running.

MacDonald has posted on the defense fund website articles on the dangers to rail workers and communities along the tracks posed by the rail bosses’ push for the one-man crew.

Popular TV program exposes truth
The French-language television show Enquête (“Investigation”) ran a special program Jan. 22 entitled “Lac-Mégantic, corrected version.” The program said that an unpublished draft of the Transportation and Safety Board reported that the absence of a second crew member likely contributed to the disaster. It criticized the Canadian government for changing regulations so Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway could run oil trains with one person.
Lac-Mégantic resident Guy Royer, whose daughter died in the disaster, told Enquête that when the explosion woke Harding up, he rushed to the site, risking his life to help firemen depressurize brakes on some of the cars that had not caught fire so they could be moved.

For this reason he is considered a hero by many in Lac-Mégantic. They were angered when he was charged, arrested at gunpoint at his home and then, along with the Labrie and Demaître, paraded in handcuffs to a temporary courthouse in the sports center near what was downtown Lac-Mégantic.

After the Jan. 15 court hearing, Harding’s attorney, Thomas Walsh, told the press they hoped the case would go before a jury in Lac-Mégantic.

Shortly after charges were filed, the Quebec section of the Steelworkers union launched a defense campaign called “Justice 4 USW rail workers” to raise money for legal costs. To date $200,000 (US$158,000) has been raised, mostly from other USW locals in Canada.

Lawyers representing 40 of the 47 families who lost members during the explosion and fire report they have reached a US$158 million agreement — which still has to be approved by the Superior Court of Quebec — with the railroad, oil bosses and insurance companies. But more than half would go to federal, provincial and municipal governments. To date the victims of the disaster have not seen one penny.

To help Harding’s defense, in Canada send checks to Syndicat des Métallos, 565, boulevard Crémazie Est, bureau 5100, Montreal, Quebec, H2M 2V8. Credit card donations can be made at www.justice4USWrailworkers.org.

In the U.S. checks can be sent to Tom Harding Defense Fund, First Niagara Bank, 25 McClellan Drive, Nassau, NY 12123. Donations can also be made at www.tomhardingdefensefund.com .

Amtrak worker Mindy Brudno contributed to this article.

USW Steelworkers Local Gives $70,000 to Railway Workers' Defence Fund
No charges were brought against MMA owner Ed Burkhardt or against the federal Conservative government that allowed the use of single-worker train crews without an inquiry into the implications of its decision.

http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/steelworkers-local-gives-70000-to-r...
MONTREAL, July 16, 2014 /CNW/ - A $70,000 contribution from a United Steelworkers (USW) union local has boosted a legal defence fund for workers charged in the Lac-Mégantic rail tragedy.

The Justice for USW Rail Workers Fund has raised nearly $120,000 to date, following the $70,000 contribution from USW Local 1976. The local represents 6,000 members across Canada, including 1,000 railway workers. Contributions to the defence fund also have come from other union locals, individual union members, other organizations and the public.

On May 12 this year, three employees of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) were charged with criminal negligence in connection with the 2013 Lac-Mégantic train explosion.

Following their arrest, the employees, including USW Local 1976 members Thomas Harding and Richard Labrie, were publicly paraded in handcuffs before the Lac-Mégantic community.

No charges were brought against MMA owner Ed Burkhardt or against the federal Conservative government that allowed the use of single-worker train crews without an inquiry into the implications of its decision.

"Our colleagues should not be held criminally responsible for negligent management practices of a company like MMA or the government's lax regulation that so easily allowed an engineer working alone to operate a train carrying explosive materials," said USW Local 1976 President Steven Hadden.

"We ask everyone who feels solidarity with the workers who have been arrested to contribute to the defence fund," said Richard Boudreault, the Steelworkers' Area Coordinator in Montreal. "This type of criminal prosecution can lead to broken lives. Let's stand in solidarity with these ordinary workers."

Donations to the defence fund can be made online via PayPal, at www.justice4USWRailworkers.org. Donations also can be made by cheque, payable to the United Steelworkers, with the notation "Justice for USW rail workers." Cheques can be sent to 565 Crémazie Boulevard East, Suite 5100, Montreal, QC H2M 2V8.

SOURCE: United Steelworkers (USW)

For further information:

Clairandrée Cauchy, USW Communications, 514-774-4001, ccauchy@metallos.ca

The Tom Harding Defense Website

http://www.tomhardingdefensefund.com

The Tom Harding Defense Website was created to assist Tom Harding - the locomotive engineer at the center of the July 6,2013 LacMegantic Quebec derailment - with legal fees that have been incurred since his arrest on May 12 2014. He was freed on $15,000 bail. Tom faces 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death, one count for each person who was killed when a runnaway train derailed and exploded in the center of LacMegantic destroying the town center. He faces a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted.
Last June 22 a Quebec judge rejucted a motion by Toms laywer to throw the case out of court because of a series of abuses by the Quebec prosecutor, including the cancelling of the normal preliminary hearing to decide weather there is a basis to proceed to a trial.
The trial is under way in Sherbrooke Que.
http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/lac-megantic-criminal-trial-begin...
Please help Tom by making a donation to this fund. Any amount would be greatly appreciated.

Donations
If you wish to send a check, please send it to:

Tom Harding Defense Fund
Key Bank
1817 Columbia Turnpike
Castleton New York 12033

Phone 1-518-449-8162

If you wish to donate online:

PayPal - The safer, easier way to pay online!

Steelworkers Local 1976 donates $70,000 to Lac-Megantic rail workers' defense fund
https://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/headline.asp?id=39797
(Source: United Steelworkers press release, July 16, 2014)

MONTREAL — A $70,000 contribution from a United Steelworkers (USW) union local has boosted a legal defense fund for workers charged in the Lac-Mégantic rail tragedy.

The Justice for USW Rail Workers Fund has raised nearly $120,000 to date, following the $70,000 contribution from USW Local 1976. The local represents 6,000 members across Canada, including 1,000 railway workers. Contributions to the defense fund also have come from other union locals, individual union members, other organizations and the public.

On May 12 this year, three employees of the Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway (MMA) were charged with criminal negligence in connection with the 2013 Lac-Mégantic train explosion.

Following their arrest, the employees, including USW Local 1976 members Thomas Harding and Richard Labrie, were publicly paraded in handcuffs before the Lac-Mégantic community.

No charges were brought against MMA owner Ed Burkhardt or against the federal Conservative government that allowed the use of single-worker train crews without an inquiry into the implications of its decision.

"Our colleagues should not be held criminally responsible for negligent management practices of a company like MMA or the government's lax regulation that so easily allowed an engineer working alone to operate a train carrying explosive materials," said USW Local 1976 President Steven Hadden.

"We ask everyone who feels solidarity with the workers who have been arrested to contribute to the defence fund," said Richard Boudreault, the Steelworkers' Area Coordinator in Montreal. "This type of criminal prosecution can lead to broken lives. Let's stand in solidarity with these ordinary workers."

Donations to the defence fund can be made online via PayPal, at www.justice4USWRailworkers.org. Donations also can be made by cheque, payable to the United Steelworkers, with the notation "Justice for USW rail workers." Cheques can be sent to 565 Crémazie Boulevard East, Suite 5100, Montreal, QC H2M 2V8.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

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Tags: Rail safetyrail workers frame-upUSW railway workers
Categories: Labor News

The Evidence is in: The Train Crew did not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy - DROP THE CHARGES against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie

Current News - Fri, 12/22/2017 - 01:06

The Evidence is in: The Train Crew did not Cause the Lac-Mégantic Tragedy -
DROP THE CHARGES against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie

http://hardingdefense.org

DROP THE CHARGES against Tom Harding and Richard Labrie

The stakes in the Lac-Mégantic scapegoating trial of Harding and Labrie escalate
Failure to hold the railroads accountable for the conditions they create will be prelude to a resurgence of risky oil shipment practices
Costlier and more dangerous crude by rail set to rise again as oil production swells
New oilsands megaprojects are set to open and pipeline capacity is at a premium
By Kyle Bakx, CBC News Posted: Oct 31, 2017 5:00 AM ET Last Updated: Oct 31, 2017 5:37 AM ET

If You Care About Railroad Safety You Must Defend Tom Harding

https://static1.squarespace.com/static/505b96a8c4aa40a37a143c49/t/5814d3...

Practically every North American railroader now knows about the tragic train wreck in the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec in July, 2013. With its tremendous loss of life and destruction, the disaster made headlines around the world. In the aftermath of that accident, as we discussed it amongst ourselves, details became known. One of those details was that within days of the wreck the locomotive engineer of the runaway train, Tom Harding, was arrested and ultimately charged. He and his Dispatcher face the possibility of life in prison if found guilty as charged. No company official of the Montreal, Maine & Atlantic (MM&A) – the railroad upon which the wreck took place - nor the company itself have faced criminal charges.

To this day, there is confusion and disinformation circulated about that matter. For those of us in the fight for rail safety, it is imperative that we know the facts. This is key not just to prevent a grave injustice, but to prevent future repetitions of that incident and to stop the dangerous push by the rail carriers to deflect all liability for the consequences of their policy deci- sions and simply blame-the-worker every and any time there is an accident or injury, fatality or disaster.

Some railroaders – even a few known as safety conscious can get this issue wrong. Because conscientious trainmen and en- gineers take safety on the job so seriously, taking personal responsibility comes as second nature to us. No one wants to be seen as making excuses for a co-worker who doesn't take his/her job or their co-workers' safety seriously. As a result, some raise arguments that perhaps Tom Harding is guilty of something, that maybe he deserves to be charged. Therefore, it is cru- cial that we examine the facts.

What We Know: On July 6th, 2013, at 0110 EDT the MM&A railway freight train identified as OIL-L, consisting of 5 locomotives, 1 belt pack remote control caboose and 73 cars, including 1 boxcar loaded with inert material used as buffer car directly be- hind the locomotives and 72 loaded tank cars of Bakken crude oil, 4748 feet long weighing 10,287 tons, ran away at Nantes station, Mile 7.4 on the Sherbrooke Subdivision. Sixty-four cars derailed at Mile 0.25 in the center of the town of Lac-Megantic, Quebec. The derailment resulted in the spill of product and a fire that in its scope and rapid spread destroyed a large part of the town center. Forty-seven people died in the event. We know that MM&A was one of the pioneers in forcing single crew op- erations resulting in the loss of crucial layers of safety backups. The policy of running long heavy trains with a single crew member meant that the ability to split the train and “cut” crossings was ruled out as a means of keeping these trains off the worst of the grade at Lac-Megantic. "Securing" OIL-L (also called MMA-002) on the mainline (instead of on the derail-protected siding at Nantes), without cutting crossings, meant that the train had to be tied down on the grade when that would not have otherwise been necessary. The decision to operate this way was not made by the engineer. Rather it was a matter of enforced MM&A policy.

Securing trains on the MM&A was governed by that road’s General Special Instructions dated March 1st, 2012, in paragraphs 112-1 and 112-2. It was also found in Section 14, General Operating Instructions of the Canadian Pacific Railway, considered valid by MM&A. Paragraph 112-1 requires a minimum of 9 handbrakes for trains of 70 to 79 cars. This was the only MM&A rule applicable to the situation.

Some have argued that Harding may have only applied 7 handbrakes (as the police expert surmised, based on long distance visual inspection after the derailment) thereby setting the stage for the runaway. But the determination of the Canadian Trans- portation Safety Board (TSB) investigation was clear that 9 handbrakes would not have prevented the incident. The TSB inves- tigation states that no less than 15 (and possibly as many as 26) handbrakes would have been required to prevent the inci- dent. Prevention of the accident is the only question that needs to be asked regarding criminal charges.

There are NO credible authorities that believe that if Harding had been found to have applied the required 9 hand brakes, the wreck would have been prevented. Those who want rail safety must refuse to be fooled by rail management claims that the employee – and his actions or lack thereof - are solely responsible for safe rail operations.

The investigation shows that MMA-002 ran away because it was left on a grade without: 1 - sufficient handbrakes; 2 - derail protection, either on the siding or the Main; and 3 - a working air compressor to charge the brake system. Each of those fac- tors were beyond Harding's control. According to the TSB investigation, each of the above were significant contributors, all the result of MM&A and Transport Canada policy decisions and deficient safety culture, settin the stage for disaster.

The fact is that if Harding had applied no car brakes at all and the MM&A’s policies of placement, securement, and equipment maintenance had not been what they were, MMA-002 would never have run away. Those matters were of course, beyond his control. The principal catalyst of the incident was the shutdown of the locomotive by the local fire department after the stack fire, shutting down the only running compressor, together with the failure of the MM&A to have a qualified person establish whether the equipment was properly secured or not after the fire was put out.

An esoteric discussion of whether Tom Harding is a great engineer or not is irrelevant. If he, in fact, had applied less than the required 9 brakes or improperly tested those inadequate brakes, his actions do not support criminal charges. At worst, he might be guilty of MM&A rule violations, although the TSB makes clear that both the MM&A and Transport Canada bear major responsibility for the failures of training and understanding that are highlighted in this incident. It has been established that even if everything would have been done according to rule, the equipment would still have run away and derailed. It deflects from where the criminal liability must rightly fall. Anyone who wants railroad policies, procedures, and practices that protect workers and communities need to get this right. Next time it could very easily be you.

Nearly every railroader has been in - or has seen - someone in the situation that Tom Harding was in that night back in the summer of 2013. By rule and based on his training and the culture of the MM&A workforce, he was rendered incapable of tak- ing actions that could have prevented the wreck. It takes “smoke and mirrors" and a huge PR operation to turn this into crimi- nal charges against Harding and his Dispatcher. Progressive railroaders must not participate in this scapegoating. Actual rail safety requires that the carriers assume responsibility and accountability for the demands and operating conditions that they impose on us.

The scapegoating of Tom Harding must be seen in the context of the entire industry's policy move away from all corporate re- sponsibility. Across the continent, we have seen more and more incidents where the operating crew is held civilly or criminally liable for the results of unsafe conditions imposed upon them as a matter of railroad policy. If Tom Harding is found criminally liable in Quebec, it would deal a deadly blow to railroad safety across the continent. And the fact is that deadly consequences would inevitably be the result.

Lac-Mégantic Trial Reveals More Damning Evidence

http://jordanbarab.com/confinedspace/2017/10/24/lac-megantic-trial/

October 24, 2017Jordan1 Commenton Lac-Mégantic Trial Reveals More Damning Evidence
The trial of three rail employees blamed for the deaths of 47 people due to a train carrying 73 cars of highly combustible crude oil that derailed in the small Quebec town of Lac-Mégantic continues to move forward.

At around 1:00 am on July 6, 2013, the un-manned train began to roll down a hill toward the town after the lead locomotive was shut down due to a fire caused by mechanical problems. The government is arguing that Thomas Harding (the engineer and sole crew member) didn’t set enough hand brakes on the train. Two other MMA employees, Richard Labrie, 59, and Jean Demaitre, 53, are also being tried on 47 counts of criminal negligence causing death.

I have written about this tragedy here about how the workers are being blamed for what is clearly a failure of management to establish and enforce safe procedures and a safety culture at the railroad. MMA has since gone bankrupt. My first trial update can be read here.

MMA had allowed to train to exceed a safe weight by almost 50% more than allowed

In the latest installment, former MMA locomotive engineer, François Daigle, told the court that MMA had allowed to train to exceed a safe weight by almost 50% more than allowed:

Referring to a regulation manual and documents which listed the contents and weight of the 73-car train that derailed on July 6, 2013, Daigle confirmed the maximum weight allowed for an MMA train during the period from April 1, 2013 to Nov. 30 was 6300 tonnes — not counting locomotives.

The train involved in the tragedy weighed 9100 tonnes.

Daigle also confirmed that MMA did not maintain the trains adequately and they were discouraged from complaining about the poor conditions of the locomotives. The lead locomotive on the train that crashed into Lac Megantic was parked on a hill above the town due to mechanical problems. It later caught fire, causing the fire department to shut down the lead locomotive, which lead to the brake failure.

Another former MMA employee, Michael Horan, who was in charge of training and safety in Quebec, told the court that when MMA decided to allow trains to operate with one-man crews, they implemented no new safety precautions. For example, there was no new requirement that the locomotive engineer communicate to headquarters the number of hand brakes that had been applied. Horan also told the court that another railroad, Quebec North Shore and Labrador Rail (QNSL), that had instituted single crew trains did so under much stricter conditions.

Horan said that MMA did make the effort to meet municipal and emergency response officials along the route to talk about foreseeable problems and to make sure that there were procedures in place in the event of an unforeseen incident, such as a derailment. But the chance of a fire was never discussed, despite the fact that the trains were carrying crude oil.

Horan also told the court that Harding should have set 9 hand brakes, not seven, according to MMA procedures. The problem, as we reported before, is that Canadian Transportation Board report said that “testing showed that this number would not have provided sufficient retarding force to hold the train once the air pressure in the independent brake system was reduced” after the lead engine was shut down after the fire. In fact, the TSB concluded that, depending on various scenarios, the engineer would have needed to apply between 12 and 26 hand brakes in order to hold the train.

Tags: Canadian railwayshealth and safetyLac-Mégantic Trial
Categories: Labor News

Fiji: Global campaign for International airport locked out workers underway

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 12/21/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: FTUC
Categories: Labor News

Germany: Pilots' union calls first-ever Ryanair strike for Friday

Labourstart.org News - Thu, 12/21/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: The Local
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Uber was just dealt a major blow by the European Union-It is a transportation company

Current News - Wed, 12/20/2017 - 20:25

Uber was just dealt a major blow by the European Union-It is a transportation company
By Amanda Erickson December 20 at 12:54 PM

Taxis blockade Whitehall in London, protesting the introduction of Uber in Britain. (Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)
Uber is a company that people use to hire drivers who transport them from place to place. Even so, the tech giant has long maintained that it is not, in fact, a transportation company. The company’s leaders argue that they simply provide a platform for people to connect with other people, who just happen to want to move them around.

Uber has used the argument to avoid treating its drivers like actual employees who deserve a living wage and benefits. It’s how the company has tried to wiggle out of liability when drivers cause accidents or assault their passengers. And it’s how Uber explains away its decision to flout local laws that regulate how taxi companies operate.

Not anymore — at least, not in Europe.

The European Union’s top court ruled Wednesday that Uber is a transportation service that should be regulated like any other taxi operator. It was a landmark ruling, one that could make it much harder for start-ups to argue that they are simply a button on a smartphone and, therefore, not accountable to their workers and clients.

“The service provided by Uber connecting individuals with nonprofessional drivers is covered by services in the field of transport,” the European Court of Justice wrote in its decision. “Member states can, therefore, regulate the conditions for providing that service.”

The ECJ further noted that Uber “exercises decisive influence over the conditions under which the drivers provide their service.” Without the app, “persons who wish to make an urban journey would not use the services provided by those drivers.”

The case stems from a 2014 complaint by the professional taxi drivers’ association in Barcelona, which alleged unfair competition from Uber’s nonprofessional drivers in Spain. The association also charged Uber with “misleading practices.”

Elite Taxi, the group that brought the case, responded to the court decision with a tweet: “Today, taxi drivers have beaten Goliath.”

Uber, worth $68 billion, operates in 600 cities globally. Since its founding about a decade ago, the company has regularly run afoul of regulators and local legislators, along with local taxi drivers.

Its peer-to-peer service, called UberX in the United States and UberPop in most of Europe, has come under particular scrutiny. UberPop allows people to hail nonprofessional drivers for a cheap ride. But the use of unlicensed workers violated laws in several countries, and the service has since been banned in many places, including France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Sweden.

Right now, the company is also fighting for survival in London, a key European market where more than 40,000 drivers prowl the streets for business. In September, the city’s transportation authority rejected Uber’s application for a new license to operate, ruling that the ride-hailing giant is not a “fit and proper” private car-hire operator. Transport for London accused Uber of demonstrating a "lack of corporate responsibility,” including not reporting serious criminal offenses and a failure to obtain medical certificates and conduct background checks for drivers.

Mayor Sadiq Khan said the dispute may take years to resolve. “I want London to be at the forefront of innovation and new technology and to be a natural home for exciting new companies that help Londoners by providing a better and more affordable service,” Khan said at the time. “However, all companies in London must play by the rules and adhere to the high standards we expect — particularly when it comes to the safety of customers.”The company is also locked in a legal battle about whether its drivers are employees. In November, an appeals court in Britain ruled that the company's drivers are workers and are, therefore, entitled to benefits such as holiday pay and minimum wage.

3:27
Here’s what London Uber and taxi drivers had to say on Uber’s ousting

The Post’s Karla Adam took a ride around London with an Uber driver and a taxi driver to get their thoughts on the Uber vs. taxi debate. (Karla Adam, Jack Hextall/The Washington Post)
Frances O’Grady, who runs the British Trades Union Congress, hailed the decision. “Their drivers are not commodities. They deserve at the very least the minimum wage and holiday pay,” she said in a statement. “Advances in technology should be used to make work better, not to return to the type of working practices we thought we’d seen the back of decades ago.”

According to the company, Uber already follows the transportation laws of most E.U. countries where it operates.

“This ruling will not change things in most E.U. countries where we already operate under transportation law,” Uber said in a statement. “However, millions of Europeans are still prevented from using apps like ours.”

[How 800,000 people are trying to save Uber in London]

In fact, the biggest changes might come not to Uber but to other start-ups that use a similar model for everything from getting food and groceries delivered to hiring cleaning services or handymen. Right now, E.U. law protects online services from undue restrictions. National governments must inform the European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, of any potential regulations to ensure they are not discriminatory or disproportionate.

“The purpose of those rules is to make sure online innovators can achieve greater scalability and competitiveness in the E.U., unfettered from undue national restrictions,” Jakob Kucharczyk, vice president for E.U. policy at the Computer and Communications Industry Association, told Reuters. “This is a blow to the E.U.’s ambition of building an integrated digital single market.”

Tags: UberTaxisDriversemployees
Categories: Labor News

China: Is Labor Federation Willing to Stand Up for Workers Against Walmart?

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 12/20/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: In These Times
Categories: Labor News

Fiji: ITF Global Union calls on PM to intervene in on-going airport dispute

Labourstart.org News - Wed, 12/20/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Fiji Times
Categories: Labor News

IBT VP and IBT Joint Council 7 President Rome Aloise Corruption Brings Possible Expulsion But He Is Still Trying To Cash In

Current News - Tue, 12/19/2017 - 20:18

IBT VP and IBT Joint Council 7 President Rome Aloise Corruption Brings Possible Expulsion But He Is Still Trying To Cash In

Aloise tried to raid some recycling workers out of the Longshore Union (ILWU) and failed, he directed Teamsters to cross their picket lines when the workers went on strike.

Aloise threatened to sabotage Teamster strikers at Safeway because the local union leader was running against the Hoffa Slate. The Election Supervisor called it the worst violation of the entire election cycle.

“Aloise stands alone in the number and breadth of serious violations he was found to have engaged in while an International Vice President.”

http://www.tdu.org/rome_aloise_is_still_trying_to_cash_in

POSTED ON DECEMBER 06, 2017
Facing a lifetime ban from the Teamsters, corrupt Hoffa power broker Rome Aloise is asking the judge for leniency so he can cash in as a consultant to employers. Attending his last GEB meeting, Aloise blamed his downfall on a right-wing conspiracy.

Disgraced International Union Vice President Rome Aloise has been found guilty of serial corruption charges, including taking employer payoffs and negotiating sham contracts.

At his final General Executive Board meeting, Aloise gave a speech blamed his downfall not on corruption, but on a vast conspiracy by forces who saw him as "the most powerful man in the Teamsters."

Aloise's conspiracy theories are unlikely to persuade Judge Barbara S. Jones, the Independent Review Officer, who will be ruling on his punishment.

The Independent Investigations Officer Joseph diGenova has recommended that Aloise be expelled from the union and barred from associating with Teamsters and officials.

In a brief filed with the judge, Aloise’s attorneys plead that, “A permanent associational ban would largely prohibit Mr. Aloise from earning any future income within his field of expertise.”

In other words, Aloise says his punishment is too harsh, because it would prevent him from cashing in on his Teamster contacts by working for vendors, benefit funds, or Teamster employers.

Aloise’s lawyers suggest that he be removed from only one of his three salaried union positions for just one year!

Rome knows that has no chance of flying with Judge Jones. His real goal is stopping the ban on associating with Teamsters so he can cash in on his relationships with Hoffa officials.

Rome Aloise has cashed in enough. His three salaries totaled $319,880 last year; his total compensation from our union was $383,462. That does not include the multiple pension and severance funds he will cash in on when he retires.

Teamster members have paid enough for Aloise’s misdeeds. It’s time to turn the page.

The Independent Investigations Officer found that, “Aloise stands alone in the number and breadth of serious violations he was found to have engaged in while an International Vice President.”

Judge Barbara Jones should uphold the recommended punishment and permanently bar Rome Aloise from our union and any Teamster associations.

Rome Aloise: Guilty As Charged

http://www.tdu.org/rome_aloise_guilty_as_charged
October 25, 2017
After stonewalling corruption charges for more than a year and a half, Rome Aloise, Hoffa’s main power-broker in the West, has been found guilty of all charges in a 60-page decision by Judge Barbara Jones.

Aloise solicited tickets to an exclusive Super Bowl Playboy party from an employer that he was bargaining with; he used his union influence at two employers to force them to hire his cousin; he negotiated a sham union contract with an investment broker friend; and he illegally used union resources and power to ensure the election of his supporter in Local 601.

Judge Jones, the Independent Review Officer, ruled that, “The evidence supports the charges against Aloise, and that Aloise brought reproach upon the union.”

Jones did not issue a punishment with her decision. Instead she requested submissions from Aloise and Independent Investigations Officer on what the appropriate penalty should be. This will take a month or more.

Incredibly, more than a year and a half after being charged, Aloise will have even more time to delay and stonewall justice.

He should be removed from all Teamster positions and barred from the union.

It is Hoffa's responsibility and duty to root out corruption; with the decision in hand, he should remove Aloise from appointed positions and urge his expulsion by judge Jones.

Rome Aloise: A Tragedy?

Rome Aloise’s history in the union is a case study in what goes wrong when leaders are separated from the rank and file in a system where the leaders believe they own the union.

Aloise had it all. His father was a well-respected Teamster official in the San Francisco Bay Area. He was handed a career in the union at a young age. He went to college—and was soon handed a job as a union official.

He married into Teamster power. Chuck Mack, the former Hoffa VP and head of Joint Council 7, is Aloise’s brother-in-law. So is Steve Mack, who retired as a Division Director under Hoffa.

The road was well paved for Aloise, and he drove it fast. He had smarts, too. Aloise had ideas like organizing in Silicon Valley, and he moved on them. He made political connections in California—and he built a reputation as a progressive.

But isolated from the rank and file and protected by the Hoffa administration, Aloise’s arrogance was off the charts.

He repeatedly violated the most basic union principles to advance his personal power or to exact revenge.

After Aloise tried to raid some recycling workers out of the Longshore Union (ILWU) and failed, he directed Teamsters to cross their picket lines when the workers went on strike.

In another case, Aloise threatened to sabotage Teamster strikers at Safeway because the local union leader was running against the Hoffa Slate. The Election Supervisor called it the worst violation of the entire election cycle.

When a single member ran against him for union office, Aloise illegally expelled him from the union. He was found guilty of that too.

Corrupted by Power
Now, Aloise joins John Coli as another Hoffa kingpin brought down by corruption, employer payoffs, and their own arrogance.

Coli, the former head of Chicago Joint Council 25, awaits trial on charges of taking some $300,000 in payoffs from an employer.

Aloise is an International Vice President, the President of Northern California Joint Council 7, and head of Local 853, as well as Director of the Food Processing and Dairy Divisions of the union.

These Teamster leaders took huge salaries and then betrayed the members’ trust by taking employer payoffs. But even after their crimes were exposed, top Teamster officials rallied around them.

Hoffa nominated Aloise for Vice President after he was charged with 122 pages of corruption charges. Teamster officials set up a “defense committee” for Aloise.

The Hoffa administration will never act against corruption when it implicates the power brokers who keep them in office.

Teamsters for a Democratic Union exposes corruption regardless of who it implicates--and that’s precisely why we’re attacked by the likes of Hoffa, Coli, and Aloise.

Tags: IBTRome Aloisecorruptionilwuraiding
Categories: Labor News

Algeria: Support Algerian union under government attack!

Labourstart.org News - Tue, 12/19/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: IndustriALL Global Union
Categories: Labor News

The Transit Talk 14: Meet SF TWU 250A 2017 Election Candidates

Current News - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 23:34

The Transit Talk 14: Meet SF TWU 250A 2017 Election Candidates
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QpydluxsGns

Roger Marenco
Published on Nov 26, 2017

Did you miss the forum to meet the candidates? Here it is. It's important to know who to vote for on Tue. Dec. 12, 2017 so please listen to the candidates answer the questions and make an educated decision on who you will vote for. Sorry for the poor audio but the location where this event was held had poor sound quality. Please contact us with any comments, questions, concerns...etc

Get Educated...Get Organized
&
JOIN THE MOVEMENT

Tags: TWU 250ATransit TalkElection issues
Categories: Labor News

MN Twin Cities ATU 1005 Metro Transit Workers Vote On Tentative Contract

Current News - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 20:44

MN Twin Cities ATU 1005 Metro Transit Workers Vote On Tentative Contract
Metro Transit Workers Vote On Tentative Contract
http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2017/12/17/metro-transit-contract-vote-2/
By Bill HudsonDecember 17, 2017 at 11:05 pm

Filed Under:Bill Hudson, Local TV, Metro Transit
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — As Minnesota Vikings fans were flooding into U.S. Bank Stadium — feeling a hint of Super Bowl fever — Metro Transit union workers were queuing up for a crucial vote.
What they decide will have a huge impact on the lives of Super Bowl fans come late January.

“It’s never easy,” explains Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005 president, Mark Lawson.

He’s referring to the tentative contract now being voted on by the 2,500 members who operated MTC buses and trains.

Depending on how they vote will determine a Super Bowl snarl or super relief.

Lawson calls it a fair deal, adding, “we didn’t get everything we wanted, they didn’t get everything they wanted, and we made a good compromise.”

For the past six months talks between MTC management and union negotiators were going nowhere. In November union members voted overwhelmingly to reject management’s offer and authorize a strike.

That strike would take place during the upcoming Super Bowl LII, promising to shut down mass transit and creating a catastrophic mess on streets and highways.

Clearly, the mere thought of a strike was the push both sides needed to reach a fair and equitable resolution.

The thought of a bitter strike in bitter weather is very much on the minds of those voting, like driver Michael Coats.

“Because we all have bills to pay. Bills don’t stop when you are out on strike. So that would be the last thing that all of us would want,” Coats said.

A proposed three-year deal proposes to increase worker wages 2.5 percent a year. But more importantly perhaps, the deal satisfies a union demand to address and remedy driver’s safety concerns.

“It’s been an issue forever,” says 20 year veteran driver, Ed Selinske.

Selinske wants to see protective shields in all buses in the MTC fleet. Metro Transit wants to experiment with various devices, beginning in 21 MTC buses.

“There’s no reason for experimentation, we’ve got too many drivers out there being assaulted, being dragged out of their seats and beat up,” Selinske said.

Still, the compromise might very well be enough of an initial step to win over rank-and-file.

“This comes down to democracy, and we’ll see how the vote turns out,” Lawson said.

Certainly, it’s not everything the union wanted. But it may very well keep mass transit moving in these crucial months ahead. Members will have until 4:00 p.m. Monday to cast ballots and results will be known later that evening.

Tags: ATU 1005Contracthealth and safety
Categories: Labor News

UPS worker killed at Atlanta hub

Current News - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 20:18

UPS worker killed at Atlanta hub
http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/12/18/upss-d18.html
By Steve Filips
18 December 2017
As the Christmas shipping deadline looms, workers are being pushed to the limit, forcing them to risk life and limb for investor profits.
Last Friday, December 15, at approximately 2:15 pm in the afternoon, William Stubbs, 51, was killed in the United Parcel Service (UPS) Pleasantdale Road hub facility near the giant package delivery company’s headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. In a statement to the media, a UPS spokesperson said William was a 17-year veteran and warehouse worker for UPS.
Stubbs had been assigned to unload trailers on Friday, according to a DeKalb County police spokeswoman who told the Atlanta Journal Constitution, “The victim had stepped off the dock and was standing on the ground between the dock door and the trailer that was being backed into the docking door.”
All of the statements on social media have characterized Stubbs as a good worker and well liked. He apparently did not have any immediate family. A coworker presented a different version of the events than the official account.
Greg Claudon, writing on the Facebook page of the Teamsters Local 728, said, “Will was the model employee, a good man and my friend.” He said inexperienced “corporate employees,” presumably salaried personnel, unexpectedly pulled the trailer out of the dock while William was still working inside. “They pulled the wrong trailer with him in it. He fell out of the trailer and onto the ground/yard… He tried to get back up but didn’t make it. This job was his life and they took it from him. This should not have happened.” Claudon added, “UPS should not have Corporate employees doing Teamster’s jobs.”
The drivers of the tractor trailers within a yard use a special utility vehicle to shuttle trailers to docks to be loaded or unloaded. Often the operators do not possess commercial driver’s certification required to drive on public highways.
There are many unanswered questions, including: why wasn’t the trailer chocked or restrained? Was there a signaling system that would communicate whether it was safe to move the trailer? Why has the union allowed so-called corporate workers to take up safety-sensitive positions?
There is likely a sophisticated worker surveillance system within the distribution center, which could provide detailed evidence of whether safety procedures were in place to protect workers from being crushed by trailers being backed into the docks. If such footage reveals the company is at fault, then it is reasonable to believe it will not see the light of day.
Like workers at FedEx, US Postal Service, Amazon and other package delivery corporations, UPS workers have been under the gun to meet increased demand during the Christmas holiday. Opposition among rank-and-file workers is so intense, even Teamsters President James Hoffa Jr. felt compelled to complain about understaffing and the constant strain being imposed on UPS workers this holiday season.
Earlier this month, UPS announced it was changing driver schedules from the federal Department of Transportation’s commercial drivers' schedule, 60 hours worked in a seven-day work week, to 70 hours within eight days before a driver is allowed to take 34 hours off uninterrupted. This will result in placing fatigued workers on the roadways.
UPS spokesman Dean Foust said the extended hours comply with all Department of Transportation regulations and will last until Jan. 5. The change, the company says, is due to “greater-than-expected surge in volume.” The company expects to deliver about 750 million packages this holiday season, which extends from Thanksgiving until December 31, up 40 million from the 2016 holiday season.
“If you’re doing 300 or 400 stops a day, delivering heavy packages up to 150 pounds and have to keep going and going and going and then have to put another 10 hours on top of that, it can lead to fatigue. It can make you drowsy. It can make you make a mistake in driving,” a UPS driver told the local media in Phoenix, Arizona.
With the current five-year agreement for 250,000 UPS workers expiring in July, the Teamsters have postured as opponents of the campaign of speedup. The union has done nothing, however, other than filing a series of complaints with the National Labor Relations Board. The impotent character of such appeals is underscored by the fact that the NLRB now includes Trump’s pick for the general counsel of the agency, Peter Robb, a pro-company lawyer who was President Reagan’s lead attorney in the smashing of the PATCO air traffic controllers’ union in 1981.
The Teamsters have long collaborated with UPS, which was one of the first major corporations to employ part-time and temporary employees. Workers have long complained of two-tier wage and benefit systems, unsecure hours and being buried inside trailer trucks by the cardboard packages handled by “Big Brown.” Far from protecting workers, the Teamsters union, like other unions, has set up labor-management health and safety committees, largely designed to cut workers compensation costs for management and block any real fight against unsafe conditions, understaffing and job overloading.
A number of workers spoke out about the sham nature of the UPS/IBT safety committees on Facebook. One worker posted, “The company doesn’t give a crap about safety. They’ve shown they only care about meeting production standards, no matter the cost. The Teamsters should pull ALL safety committees in every center and hub. No Teamster should be doing anything involving the company’s safety committees. We can still hold the company accountable thru the grievance process and government agencies. How many more of our Brothers and Sisters must we lose before we make a stand?”
UPS had 434,000 workers in 2016 and pulled in over $3.4 billion in profit last year.

Tags: upsIBT
Categories: Labor News

The SF TWU 250A Transit Talk 5: The Contract

Current News - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 17:53

The SF TWU 250A Transit Talk 5: The Contract
The Transit Talk 5: The Contract
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGSrMYNtTUM
1,193 views

Roger Marenco
Published on Feb 12, 2017
In this month's episode we break down this tentative agreement in the most lucid manner so that you understand ballot number one and ballot number two. Understanding what you are voting on, is essential to making a decision because these decisions will affect you and every other co-worker that is on the platform now and those yet to be hired in the future. Please take your time to get accurate information so that you can make an educated decision based on facts and not based on irrationality. Please feel free to share any comments or concerns.

Get educated, Get Organized
&
JOIN THE MOVEMENT

Tags: TWU 250ATransit Talklabor education
Categories: Labor News

Israel: Teva workers threaten to blow up Jerusalem factory in protest over layoffs

Labourstart.org News - Sun, 12/17/2017 - 16:00
LabourStart headline - Source: Times of Israel
Categories: Labor News

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